Module JG210

Interactive Journalism

Module authors

Pål Aam

Volda University College



Maria Konow Lund

Oslo and Akershus University College

Learning objectives

After studying this module, you will be able to:

  • Define interactive journalism and explain who interacts here;
  • Explain the reasons for this concept;
  • Give an overview of the historic development of the technology that made interactive journalism possible, including key persons who established this genre;
  • Reflect this genre critically.
Study point 1
Reading extract Interactive Journalism


Why Open School of Journalism believes that Interactive Journalism is important zu know

The advent of the Web 2.0 has brought our planet into synchronous, or "real time", mode. Events that transpire every minute can instantly be reported online as they occur, complete with footage, pictures, or any additional evidence that supports the information. This is the fourth estate of the 21st century: Welcome to Interactive Journalism. 

What is interactive journalism?

Known as IJ, Interactive Journalism is the process of conveying information using real-time online resources and updating data and facts as they unveil. The history of IJ can be traced back to the very beginnings of the Internet in the 1990's when traditional news channels experimented with the establishment of their own "online presence" on the Web, bringing with it information about recent events as they occurred. Yet, it was not until the transformation of the Internet into the Web 2.0 that this field of journalism branched out into a myriad of different outlets of information. 

Why is interactive journalism different?

Interactive Journalism breaks from the traditional route of reporting information in that the latter quickly becomes obsolete as more happenings transpire stemming from one event. Therefore, the 21st century journalist is consistently engaged in reporting updates and providing every detail possible exactly as the news take place. This results in more engagement from the audience, as well as less probability of chaos that may stem from lack of information. Knowledge is everything, therefore, Interactive Journalism is the only way to obtain it quickly and more accurately than any other source. 

What is the most powerful interactive journalism tool today? 

Out of all the interactive journalism platforms available, blogging is undeniably the most influential. The evidence of this can be found in the number of online newspapers and magazines that offer blogs to specific reporters so that they can expand and extend their coverage and information. In traditional reporting, a "column", or an editorial, gives journalists a chance to express themselves in a creative and more personable way. While columns and editorials are still used in traditional "paper and ink" journalism, the interactive nature of blogs is what makes them a more popular resource. For example, journalists with a blog can log entries as many times as they wish to keep information updated. They can create a debate, submit a poll, conduct a survey, and even open a live session to interact directly with viewers via Skype or any other media. 

Interactive investigative reporting

Another great example of highly effective IJ is Criminal and Investigative journalism. An investigative reporter can get facts instantly by just making an open call for witnesses of an event to send tips to a confidential forum. There are currently hundreds of webpages sponsored by private investigators and reporters that work on behalf of victims whose crimes have gone cold. Transparency International and Global Witness are examples of websites where people interact with investigating reporters with information that is best given under the anonymity that the Internet grants in these cases. 

Interactive Journalism also gives reporters more control of their work. Journalists can subdivide their blogs by events, so that they can be fully invested in more than one current event at the same time. Blogs allow for specific information to filter into the right source. Most importantly, all the information that is contained in a blog is always accessible to the audience with a click of the mouse. All this being said, 21st century journalism contrasts dramatically with the type of reporting that our country witnessed for hundreds of years: static reporting that became obsolete within minutes. 

How was it done before web 2.0?

The history of the newspaper in the United States can be traced back to the colonies with the publication of Publick Occurrences in 1690. Our country depended entirely on information written on paper until the 20th century, when radio and television reigned supreme as the main sources of nationwide and worldwide news. Yet, something was still missing: the dynamic factor. While investigative reporting did include interaction with people who had made the news, the cycle of communication was not fully completed. We were not operating in "real time" at all; our world was still asynchronous. 

In contrast, Web 2.0 has enabled a myriad of formats for reporting and informing that includes blogs, video channels, webpages, websites, forums, and online magazines, just to name a few. These formats are malleable and easy to edit at all times. They can also be updated and re-visited, making them effective and relevant sources that will never go obsolete. The audience is able to become fully engaged with the information exactly as it takes place. There is a consistent relationship between the informer and the recipient of the information. Think about Twitter. This social media outlet gives journalists a never-before seen medium to actually respond to questions from an audience immediately as they are asked, making journalists more approachable, and reachable to the people. Interactive Journalism entails that we are all in the world together, making the news together, witnessing history together and, as such, we need give history the respect that it deserves so that the mistakes that we have made in the past are never repeated. 

What will come next? 

More and more technology is being developed with the aim of making our world better informed, and making people much more knowledgeable and aware of the world around them. This means that IJ may be just about to become bigger and more powerful than ever. IJ is informative, and it is humanistic. It is the new fourth estate of the 21st century, and it is definitely here to stay.